A Different Take on Kinako Mochi

We just celebrated in another new year, and in typical Japanese tradition, I made some mochi. No, not in the traditional way, pounding with heavy mallets in a large wooden tree trunk bowl. But the modern, high-tech, low sweat way: an electric mochi machine.

Pretty ingenious. You add the soaked mochi rice, turn it on to steam, and about 30 minutes later, turn it to mix. A tiny impeller turns around, and that is enough to mix the mochi rice until it has turned into a sticky glob of chewy wonder.

I was talking to a friend just the other night, and her haole (Caucasian) husband, who moved here from New Jersey decades ago, grew to love poke (a raw fish and soy sauce mixture) but never really liked mochi. Somehow people cannot get past how bland tasting it is and how chewy.

But for us mochi lovers, that’s the fun!

At any rate, I made some mochi.

Typically, I would separate it into small patties, but this time, I shaped it into very small balls, about the size of those forever-lasting hard ball candies we used to suck on when we were kids, that changed color every couple of minutes and made your cheeks puff out like Popeye the Sailor.

Normally I would eat mochi with kinako, a powder made from dried, roasted soybeans. But this time, I ate it with–what else?–Kinako Ice Cream! The recipe is in my book, The New Scoop: Recipes for Dairy-Free, Vegan Ice Cream in Unusual Flavors (Plus Some Old Favorites.) There is also an entire chapter on making Mochi Ice Cream, but since that was too much work, and I was rushing to take it to a party, I made the mochi separately.

I served the Kinako Ice Cream with some ice cream made with Japanese sweetened black beans, another new year specialty dish. I just used the Azuki Ice Cream recipe from the book. It was delicious! (Not enough that I would buy those dried beans for $15 a pound, then cook them, then make the cream. But since I had some already cooked that my neighbor had made, I used those.)

A friend had given me some fresh lilikoi (passion fruit) and I made some sherbet (not in the book; I’m testing more recipes for a possible second book!) Although that tasted good, it wasn’t such a great match with the mochi.

But the Kinako Ice Cream and the Black Bean (Kuromame in Japanese) Ice Cream were hits with the mochi. Not one bowl came back to the kitchen with anything left in it! I think that said it all. Because I had made it with agave nectar, which doesn’t raise blood sugar like sugar does, the host of the party, who is diabetic, could also enjoy it. And all vegan, too.

Yay! A nice way (not to mention delicious) to start a new year!

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